Express yourself: How to deliver a winning presentation

As an IT professional, you’re probably very comfortable answering technical questions on a one-on-one basis. But what if you had to give a presentation on those same topics to your company’s executives? It’s not an uncommon situation today. As IT departments have become more integral to business

planning and growth, so has the demand for IT professionals to present on a variety of technical topics 52; and often to a non-technical crowd, which offers an additional challenge.

If the thought of public speaking causes you apprehension, you’re not alone. The good news is there are steps you can take to increase your comfort level.

* Clarify your goals. The primary consideration in planning any presentation should be identifying the results you want to achieve. Are you trying to inform, persuade or sell something to your audience 52; or a combination of these objectives? Keep that goal in mind as you write the presentation.

* Tie your information to their needs.

Design your messages to offer the audience members a tangible set of benefits 52; this is particu-larly important if you’re presenting to a non-technical audience. If you’re talking about the benefits of supply chain software to the CFO, you might focus on cost and return on investment, for instance.

* Let your audience set your tone. Tailor your approach to fit the listeners. How much does your audience already know about the topic? Would it be wise to first establish your credentials? If they include individuals outside of IT, minimize jargon and acronyms that may not be familiar to them.

* Practise, practise, practise. While a firm grasp of the subject matter is critical, even the most knowledgeable speakers need to rehearse their delivery. People who brag that they never practise before speaking in front of others and rely on “”winging it”” are rarely successful presenters.

* Allow for your nervousness. Even the best public speakers say they feel some anxiety when they are in front of an audience. Rather than attempting to completely suppress the butterflies in your stomach, try to capitalize on that energy to make your presentation more compelling.

* Make a personal connection. To more fully engage your audience, try not to think of yourself so much as a performer, but more as a “”conversationalist.”” Move casually around the “”stage”” and make eye contact. Don’t be afraid to show your personality.

According to Max Messmer, author of Managing Your Career For Dummies, how you present yourself is just as important as how you present the information. Your gestures, facial expressions and voice affect the impact of your message and the audience’s interest. The best way to enhance your presentation style is through practise. Consider signing up for some professional coaching that enables you to watch yourself on videotape so you can get feedback on those aspects of your presentation style that may need some work. If you can’t afford coaching, have yourself videotaped by a friend or family member. Here are some questions to ask when you review the tape.

* Did you establish and maintain good posture throughout the presentation?

* Did you make eye contact with the majority of the audience?

* Were your gestures natural and relaxed and without any distracting nervous habits?

* Did you project your voice and generate energy and enthusiasm?

* Did you smile enough and appear relaxed?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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